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Sport Specific Injuries: Wrestling

By Alan Williams, PT, OTR/L, ATC, CSCS

Wrestling is a sport that reaches back to antiquity. It’s written about in The Iliad and The Epic of Gilgamesh. It was made famous by the Greeks and Romans. The Pilgrims brought it with them to the New World – and discovered the Native Americans already knew it. Today wrestling can be as local as a youth wrestling club, as global as the Olympics, or as flamboyant as the WWE. Despite the varying ages and abilities of the world’s wresters, there are several common injuries that every wrestling athlete needs to be aware of.

The Center for Injury Research and Policy names wrestling and football as the high school sports with the most risk of serious injury to athletes. Because it is so high intensity, wrestling injuries are often acute (meaning sudden), but wrestlers are in no way immune to chronic (long term) problems, especially if injuries are not given the proper time to heal. Strains, sprains, and bruises are common, and vulnerable areas include the ankles, knees, fingers, wrists, shoulders, and back.

Serious injuries are a constant possibility in wrestling. Coaches and athletes alike must always be on the lookout for concussions, dislocations, and fractures, especially where sensitive areas like the neck and back are concerned. In order to prevent these and more minor injuries, it is imperative that proper safety gear be worn and correct technique be used at all times. These precautions don’t guarantee an athlete will be safe from injury, but they do significantly lessen the dangers.

Not all wrestling harms are as dramatic as a dislocated shoulder, however. Dehydration is common (especially in athletes trying to cut weight), as are inconsistent eating habits. Poor hydration and nutrition not only compromise performance, they increase the risk of injury and illness and can have long term consequences. It is crucial that athletes (especially youth and high school athletes) maintain a consistent diet of high quality nutrients, and all weight loss should preferably be done under the supervision of a doctor. Reckless weight cutting methods (such as sauna suits) are extremely dangerous and can lead to death.

To get the best out of their season, wrestlers need to manage minor injuries while preventing major ones. Some tips for doing this are as follows:

Continue lifting and stretching during the season. These activities help you get in wrestling shape during the off-season, but strength and flexibility are especially important in preventing injury during the season.
Treat minor injuries with R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation), and don’t return to practice or competition until your injury has healed.
• In addition to your regular safety gear, athletic tape and soft braces can add a small amount of stability to injuries that are very minor. However, they will not speed time; don’t count on them to protect an injury that really needs more rest to heal.

Wresting is a thrilling sport, but it has special precautions that must be taken to keep participants safe. Stay injury-free and have a great season!

Don’t let an injury keep you from your next competition. Call 463-0022 today for your FREE Pain Assessment!

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